When Firefighters Go Bad

When Firefighters Go Bad

A Study of Corruption and the Brazilian Fire Service

(Photo: Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil)

By Jay Fisher

Disclaimer: This article is meant to highlight a corruption problem affecting a small but measurable segment of the Brazilian fire service. Although there is undoubtedly some measure of corruption among Brazilian firefighters, it is no way meant to indict or accuse all members of that nation’s fire services. There are many, many men and women who serve with distinction and honor. However, the lessons that can be learned from the small but measurable corruption problem affecting Brazil’s fire services provide important lessons for managers and chiefs to study.

Firefighters in the United States have a really good situation. A 2011 Forbes article indicated that eighty percent of firefighters are “very satisfied” with their jobs. [1] A 2001 Gallup poll showed that the American public had either “high” or “very high” trust and honesty perceptions in firefighters. [2] Ask any firefighter, and anecdotal evidence will reveal that the public views this occupation with admiration and respect. It is indeed rare to find a profession with such an elevated level of happiness among its members that is held in high esteem by the greater society.

However, such dual, sky-high ratings of firefighting are not a world-wide phenomenon. For example, the famous “White Helmets” rescue specialists of Syria are held in high regard by people around the globe for the valiant work they do with limited resources; however, they suffer from massive stress and trauma-fatigue, and volunteer their services without compensation. Certainly their work is essential, but it is hard to imagine that job satisfaction can be high under such conditions.

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